John McLoughlin

October 19, 1784 - September 3, 1857

McLoughlin, John, Hudson's Bay Company factor (Oct. 19, 1784-Sept. 3, 1857). Born in the parish of Riviere du Loup, Quebec, the son of an Irishman and a mother of Scot-French Canadian origin, he was educated as a physician, serving as such at various North West Fur Company posts. When the company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, McLoughlin was in charge of the post of Fort William on Lake Superior. He became chief factor for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1824 and supervisor of the Columbia District, remaining at Fort George (Astoria) and later at Fort Vancouver on the Washington side of the mouth of the great river until 1846. He was always interested in natural science, making contributions from observational anthropology to botany. The trading area over which he reigned as a kind of baron was immense, he once described it as "from St. Francisco . . . to Latitude 54 North and the Interior as bounded by the Rocky Mountains." His trade touch contacted the Russians in the north, the Spaniards in the south, and the Hawaiians in the Pacific. McLoughlin often was called upon to deal with American trappers, missionaries, adventurers of one sort or another, or the distressed, and he did so competently, charitably, intelligently, and strongly. His domain represented a virtual plantation, northwest style, and from it he sipped out furs valued at up to $150,000 a year, bringing in immense stores for maintenance, barter and to dispense to the needy, which most emigrants were; although the company policy forbade assistance to Americans, McLoughlin freely granted it to all comers, on easy terms, and often was not repaid except in gratitude. He was an extraordinary personality and commanding presence, possibly 6 feet, 6 inches, in height, well-proportioned, dignified, with the gift of command, and he controlled Indians as he controlled whites, by force of personality and fair dealing. His wrath was dreaded, as his largesse was welcomed. He married a half-breed Indian woman, the widow of Alexander McKay, by whom he had four children. McLoughlin retired from the company to become an American citizen at Oregon City at the falls of the Willamette, building a fine home, today a National Historic site. Here he reigned as "the father of Oregon," which he in fact was.